Once again everyone is talking about the menopause – thanks to Davina McCall. Last year, Sex, Myths and the Menopause looked at the lack of education, understanding and misconceptions surrounding the menopause. Davina’s follow-up documentary, Sex, Mind and the Menopause, aired on Channel 4 last night, and this time she highlighted the significant and dismal problems so many women going through the menopause experience within the workplace, as well as looking at the safest hormone replacement therapy, and offering guidance and information on how to cope with this stage in a woman’s life.
McCall is all about smashing taboos and has long been a champion for greater societal understanding of the devastating symptoms many women suffer, the impact it has on their lives, and the need for more education surrounding the menopause. We need documentaries like this – to support women with fact-based menopause research, to highlight access to the safest hormone replacement therapy and medical support, and to emphasise the need to educate healthcare professionals and employers; but in many ways it’s shocking to realise how far we still have to go.
To be fair, talk around the menopause has edged into mainstream awareness significantly over the last couple of years. Thanks also to women like Meg Mathews – who, with a lack of information out there, struggled to understand and cope with her own debilitating experience of the menopause, and as a result launched the informative website MegsMenopause, together with a range of intimate skincare products specifically designed for the menopause.
The fact that we are now able to discuss this openly is a substantial step in the right direction. Where we are still falling down is in the lack of help and support that is available to us as we go through this stage of life, particularly when you consider the not so talked about effects of the menopause – the toll it takes on our mental health and wellbeing.
What has to be addressed is how the practical aspects of going through the menopause can be accommodated. We make allowances for pregnant women with extended periods of leave and an understanding that their hormonal shift affects their wellbeing and reduces work productivity. Surely these same allowances should translate to accommodate women going through the menopause? The effects of this hormonal imbalance are just as significant. In the same way that a pregnancy runs its course, we know that women will emerge on the other side of the menopause to be just as productive as they ever were.
For women outside the workplace, who are running homes and raising children, it’s an exhausting environment in itself. When you factor in the menopause – that largely arrives when the teenage years are kicking off or sudden isolation as they begin to leave home – the need for practical support within the home is imperative. More literature needs to be available for partners and husbands to understand the changes they are seeing. When so many women still say that they didn’t see it coming, imagine the confusion within a family, who also didn’t see it coming. It’s simple. If they know what’s happening, they can help.
Many of us are going to need menopause advice at some point, and here at Studio10 we urge you to join in the discussion and to keep talking – because this mustn’t just be a zeitgeist moment. The issues around the menopause aren’t going away. If we can educate, and bust the taboos and myths, we can open up so many other conversations surrounding ageing too. Added to which, in decades to come when our daughters are going through exactly the same experience, they will know what’s happening. They will be prepared.